Cre­at­ing a vibrant future work­place and con­tribut­ing to the pub­lic realm.

Design Excel­lence Com­pe­ti­tions in Sydney’s dense urban cen­tre have giv­en rise to a dra­mat­ic increase in the qual­i­ty of archi­tec­ture and urban design.

This com­pe­ti­tion process, intro­duced by for­mer Syd­ney Lord May­or Frank Sar­tor, called for four estab­lished archi­tec­tur­al prac­tices, with the pos­si­ble intro­duc­tion of a fifth emerg­ing office. At the time this project com­menced, Lipp­mann Part­ner­ship was con­sid­er­ably small­er and less expe­ri­enced than the cor­po­rate offices com­pet­ing for high-rise com­mer­cial com­mis­sions like 8 Chi­fley Square, locat­ed in the heart of Sydney’s finan­cial district.

The pro­po­nent of the com­pe­ti­tion was Mir­vac, look­ing to replace the 1970s Good­sell Build­ing. It was a fine office build­ing for its time, but the win­dows were lit­tle more than punched holes in the façade and the build­ing con­tained asbestos. It was com­mer­cial­ly obso­lete,” says archi­tect Ed Lipp­mann. With its three street frontages, it was one of a hand­ful of unen­cum­bered sites in the CBD, so it’s not sur­pris­ing this com­pe­ti­tion was hot­ly contested.

When Lipp­man reg­is­tered inter­est in the project with Mir­vac, the response was luke­warm at best.

Because of the sig­nif­i­cance of the project and its loca­tion in the city’s finan­cial epi­cen­tre, a sec­ond approach was made which was equal­ly dis­mis­sive. Lipp­mann had a last card up his sleeve. He had a close rela­tion­ship with Richard Rogers’ office in Lon­don hav­ing col­lab­o­rat­ed in the East Dar­ling Har­bour Com­pe­ti­tion (Baranga­roo). When Rogers was even­tu­al­ly com­mis­sioned by Lend Lease to pro­ceed with­out Lipp­mann, there was a score to be settled.

At the 11th hour Lipp­mann asked Mir­vac for per­mis­sion to com­pete in the com­pe­ti­tion albeit by bring­ing Rogers into the equa­tion. With Mirvac’s moti­va­tion for an inter­na­tion­al name on the project, the deal bro­kered by Lipp­mann was done. The scheme which we see today, designed by Lipp­mann Part­ner­ship in asso­ci­a­tion with Rogers Stirk Har­bour and Part­ners (RSHP) and ARUP, is the result of not just tal­ent, but deter­mi­na­tion and per­sis­tence. It was designed and doc­u­ment­ed in Lipp­mann and ARUP’s Syd­ney offices and earned Lipp­mann Part­ner­ship a num­ber of awards from the Aus­tralian Insti­tute of Archi­tects and oth­er organ­i­sa­tions for Pub­lic Archi­tec­ture, Urban­ism and Sustainability.

The ele­vat­ed office build­ing, raised 20 metres above the ground plain cre­ates a cov­ered fore­court, while trans­fer­ring floor­space high­er up in the air where it’s more valuable.

This reverse podi­um’ enables win­ter sun to per­me­ate the ground plane in win­ter, while pro­vid­ing solar pro­tec­tion dur­ing the sum­mer months.

One of the inno­va­tions of the project was the deliv­ery of the 2,000 square metre (min­i­mum) office ten­an­cies which, as Lipp­mann pre­dict­ed, was cru­cial to the project’s via­bil­i­ty in this part of the city. Because there was only 1,000 square metre nett area avail­able on the site, Lipp­mann pro­posed a 3‑level vol­ume with full floor plates every 3 floors and 2 lev­els of inter­sti­tial mez­za­nines in between. Impor­tant­ly, most of the struc­ture is pushed to the out­side of the floor plate leav­ing only 4 inter­nal columns. The result is a series of high­ly flex­i­ble and user friend­ly com­mer­cial vil­lages’, with ten­ants occu­py­ing three lev­els con­nect­ed by an inter­nal stair­case. Exter­nal sky gar­dens were also intro­duced, one locat­ed mid-way up the tow­er, the oth­er at its crown. This allows for greater con­nec­tiv­i­ty amongst staff – both social­ly and visu­al­ly ‑and was cru­cial to the propo­si­tion of a work­place of the future’. 

The office tow­er breaks away from the con­ven­tion­al mod­el of a cen­tral core for lifts and ser­vices. The pro­posed side core on the south­ern bound­ary allows views from the toi­lets and mov­ing lifts to ani­mate the south façade. This arrange­ment cre­ates a vast flex­i­ble office floor plate with three glazed facades pro­vid­ing nat­ur­al light and views. The struc­tur­al stiff­ness lost by the removal of the cen­tral core is achieved with the intro­duc­tion of steel brac­ing on the side ele­va­tions of the build­ing, bright­ly coloured to cre­ate high­ly artic­u­lat­ed and leg­i­ble architecture.

While the archi­tects were keen to cre­ate a vibrant work­place with­in the office tow­er, they were also com­mit­ted to the qual­i­ty of the pub­lic realm.

Recitals and per­for­mances at street lev­el were inher­ent to the acti­va­tion envis­aged as a result of the reverse podi­um concept.

Sus­tain­abil­i­ty was a fun­da­men­tal com­mit­ment by the client and design team. This was achieved by the intro­duc­tion of black water recy­cling, a tri-gen­er­a­tion plant, chilled beam ceil­ings, a new sub-sta­tion with back-up diesel gen­er­a­tion and a lim­i­ta­tion on park­ing for only 37 cars. This was sup­ple­ment­ed by 160 bicy­cle bays with gen­er­ous end of trip facil­i­ties. Solar pan­els and recy­clable mate­ri­als were incor­po­rat­ed exten­sive­ly. These ini­tia­tives earned 8 Chi­fley Square a six-star green star rat­ing, one of only 3 build­ings in Syd­ney to have achieved this at the time of its completion. 

Today, 8 Chi­fley Square remains a bea­con of con­tem­po­rary archi­tec­ture in Sydney’s finan­cial dis­trict, pro­vid­ing an excep­tion­al stan­dard of ameni­ty to those who work there, and, as impor­tant­ly, cre­at­ing a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to Sydney’s pub­lic realm. 

by Stephen Crafti


  • 2018 Best Smart Build­ing
    Sus­tain­abil­i­ty Awards
  • 2015 Devel­op­ment of the Year
    Prop­er­ty Coun­cil of Aus­tralia Inno­va­tion and Excel­lence Awards
  • 2015 Best Com­mer­cial Archi­tec­ture
    Prop­er­ty Coun­cil of Aus­tralia Inno­va­tion and Excel­lence Awards
  • 2015 Best Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment
    Prop­er­ty Coun­cil of Aus­tralia Inno­va­tion and Excel­lence Awards
  • 2015 Best Office Devel­op­ment
    Prop­er­ty Coun­cil of Aus­tralia Inno­va­tion and Excel­lence Awards
  • 2014 Nation­al Award for Com­mer­cial Archi­tec­ture
    Aus­tralian Insti­tute of Architects
  • 2015 Sir Arthur G. Stephen­son Award
    Aus­tralian Insti­tute of Architects
  • 2015 Com­men­da­tion for Sus­tain­able Archi­tec­ture
    Aus­tralian Insti­tute of Architects
  • 2015 Col­or­bond Award for Steel Archi­tec­ture
  • 2015 Com­men­da­tion for Sus­tain­able Archi­tec­ture
    Col­or­bond Awards for Steel Archi­tec­ture
    Aus­tralian Insti­tute of Architects
  • 2015 Com­mer­cial Devel­op­ment of the Year
    Urban Devel­op­ment Insti­tute of Australia
  • 2015 Com­mer­cial Build­ing of the Year
    Syd­ney Design Awards
  • 2015 Best Inno­v­a­tive Devel­op­ment
    Archi­tec­ture AU Awards
  • 2015 Best Com­mer­cial Build­ing
    Archi­tec­ture & Design Sus­tain­abil­i­ty Awards
  • 2015 Devel­op­ment of the Year
    Urban Task Force

Project details

  • Loca­tion
    8 Chi­fley Square, Sydney
  • Client
    Mir­vac Development
  • Key con­sul­tants
    ARUP, Dou­glas Part­ners, Mor­ris God­ing, Phillip Chun, Bar­bara Flyn
  • Builder
    Mir­vac Constructions
  • Pho­tog­ra­phy
    Brett Board­man